Blueberry-Banana Bread–Kona Inn Banana Bread Redux: Lighter and Healthier

Sunday, February 23, 2020 is NATIONAL BANANA BREAD DAY. I had no clue, but you know there’s a day for everything. I’d love you to make my loaf to celebrate the — uh-hem — holiday, but I’ll be totally happy if you make it tomorrow or even the next day, too. The original version of the famous Kona Inn Banana Bread has been a star in my baking repertoire for at least 35 years. Sure there’ve been other banana breads I’ve cheated with and lots of other sweet quick breads….but this is the one that has passed the test of time and feels like the world standard–at least at my house. The recipe for my bread came from THE FANNY FARMER BAKING BOOK by Marion Cunningham, one of my go-to basic baking books in 1985, 2020, and all the years in between. (The book’s out of print, but there are used copies available. Don’t hesitate if you like to bake.) These days, you can also find the recipe in several places and versions around the web, even on Epicurious or Food Network!

205 grams of fat in a cup of shortening here. Close to 400 grams of sugar.

If you asked my kids the name of the recipe for my banana bread, they might not be able to tell you, but they’d know the bread if you gave them a piece!

Our youngest, Emily, who’s eaten her share of Kona Inn Banana Bread, at brunch with us last Sunday.

An unusually large number of really ripe bananas (6 in the case of the Kona Inn version) is typically the impetus for banana bread, and while that isn’t something that happens very often at my house lately, it did yesterday. I got out the recipe, really wanting to bake it, but knowing it was time to change a lot of things about this bread if we were going to continue eating it. Two cups of sugar, for instance. Yikes! A cup of shortening—argh. All white flour. Hm. Without losing a bit of the integrity or taste of the bread, there were ways we could improve its…healthful qualities, shall we say. The easiest things to change were these:

  • Replace at least half of the white, all purpose flour with whole wheat flour and perhaps some corn meal
  • Cut the sugar in half. With that many bananas, 2 cups was really excessive. (I don’t use sugar substitutes with the exception of maple syrup, honey, etc.)
  • Replace two of the 4 whole eggs with egg whites (You can easily use 2 egg whites in place of one egg in baking.)
  • Swap out butter for the shortening and use applesauce in place of half of the fat.

But the more I looked at the recipe, the more I wondered about skipping that cup of walnuts, too. Now walnuts are healthy no matter what and I know that, but there are 766 calories in a cup of chopped walnuts and, watching my calories carefully, I made the leap to replace the nuts with blueberries. I could choose a few nuts for a snack some other time and, in the meanwhile, have a lighter breakfast treat and snack. You, my friend, can toss those walnuts right back in if you want them, but just remember that blueberries are luscious for your body, too.

The resulting loaf held not the least iota of disappointment. In fact, both Dave (the hub) and I liked it even better–perhaps knowing we could indulge a little more colored that response, but I don’t know; we’re picky. And we know that bread well. In addition to changing, increasing (i.e. : the original salt was table salt; I increase it a tiny bit as I often bake with kosher salt, which has larger granules), eliminating, and swapping out ingredients, I updated the directions to include a quick turn in the food processor to make mixing the butter, bananas, etc. much faster and easier on the hands. Do put the dry and wet ingredients together by hand, though, to make sure you don’t over mix the bread–which would make it tough and tight instead of oh-so-tender. (Too much mixing develops the flour’s gluten or protein.)

above: I cool my bread in the dish cupboard so our labradoodle, Rosie, doesn’t get into it.

When I ran the new recipe through the Weight Watchers recipe program, I came out with 9 points (green) per serving. It’s a still a lot, but knowing the old version must have been over 20 points a slice, I’ll take it. I include the nutritional information for both versions below the recipe, and the new one is 273 calories, 7 grams fat, a whopping 11 grams protein, versus 374, 14 grams of fat, and 5 grams protein for the original…but that is NOT “no matter how you slice it!” A salient point is this: I make a pretty large, 9x5x3-inch loaf out of this recipe and easily get 14 slices. Others divide it into two smaller loafs, thus creating more and smaller servings; it’s an idea. Making small or mini muffins is another. As anyone watching their weight or health knows well, the easiest way to cut calories is to cut your portions in half. I’ll take a half slice with my coffee and plain Greek yogurt in the morning and call it good. A tiny splurge would be eating the other half for afternoon snack. After all is said and baked, this bread is still a treat. In fact, w’ere going to Hawaii next month. Maybe we’ll stop in the Kona Inn Restaurant (the inn itself closed years ago) and share the new recipe with them. In the meantime, you can try this and then your house will share that, “Oh, you baked banana bread!” smiling fragrance:

blueberry-banana bread

A healthier, lighter, and totally new take on the long-famous KONA INN BANANA BREAD. I’ve been happily making the original version since July of 1985 out of The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham, but it needed updating. My tender, tasty loaf is half the sugar, half the fat, half the white flour, but not half the flavor! Smaller slices also help cut calories, too–if you can do it! I’ve added in a food processor to ease the mixing for the liquid ingredients, but feel free to use a mixer or do the whole shebang by hand if you’ve good strong arms and plenty of time. Marion recommends spreading a little cream cheese on top of your slice; I agree.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Cooling1 hour
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Banana, Bread
Author: More Time at the Table/Alyce Morgan


  • 9x5x3 loaf pan


  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 generous teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 medium ripe bananas, peeled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries


  • Grease and flour a 9x5x3 baking pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack at center.
  • Mix the dry ingredients (flours, cornmeal, baking soda, and salt) in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  • Add the bananas, eggs, egg whites, sugar, butter, and applesauce to the bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse several times until the mixture is well-combined, but thick and chunky; it needn’t be smooth.
  • Spoon the banana mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and gently mix everything together by hand until just combined. Stir in the blueberries.
  • Pour into prepared pan. Bake 60-70 minutes or until a skewer inserted at the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes; turn out onto a rack and cool completely–at least an hour.


The original recipe includes 1 cup chopped walnuts; please add them back in if you’d like. This makes a large, deep loaf. You can also divide it between two smaller loaf pans (8×4) or even make muffins. Bake an 8×4 loaf 40-45 min. and muffins 15-20 minutes. You can replace the 4 egg whites with 2 more eggs for a total of 4 whole eggs if need be. Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2019. All rights reserved.


Nutrition Facts
Servings 14.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 273 
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7 g11 %
Saturated Fat 4 g21 %
Monounsaturated Fat 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 44 mg15 %
Sodium 433 mg18 %
Potassium 295 mg8 %
Total Carbohydrate 42 g14 %
Dietary Fiber 3 g11 %
Sugars 22 g
Protein 11 g22 %
Vitamin A 6 %
Vitamin C 14 %
Calcium 2 %
Iron 5 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.


Nutrition Facts
Servings 14.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 374 
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 14 g22 %
Saturated Fat 9 g43 %
Monounsaturated Fat 3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 87 mg29 %
Sodium 367 mg15 %
Potassium 241 mg7 %
Total Carbohydrate 58 g19 %
Dietary Fiber 2 g8 %
Sugars 35 g
Protein 5 g9 %
Vitamin A 12 %
Vitamin C 8 %
Calcium 5 %
Iron 2 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.


Stuff to Read:

Salt Conversion Chart

Lighten Up Secrets, Revealed! (COOKING LIGHT)

The Kona Inn + Kona Inn Restaurant

Kona Inn Banana Bread Recipe on Epicurious (Note this version uses cake flour.)


Banana-Cranberry Bread with White Chocolate Chips

I’m up before the break of dawn today, awakened by the bright white lightness shining through the curtains in our bedroom–snow and more snow. Since we had not a flake for all of January, we’re grateful for any moisture knowing we’ll soon be facing fire season. My bulbs and iris tubers planted last fall are rejoicing in the dark ground…

Coming home from Denver the back way last Sunday.

…and a pot of soup just might be on its way today. Maybe split pea. What are you cooking?


Me and my favorite taste tester and sous.

2 thoughts on “Blueberry-Banana Bread–Kona Inn Banana Bread Redux: Lighter and Healthier

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